It's conference tournament week

The South Region Tracker is updated and ready for what is typically a crazy week at the conference tournaments.  Below is my list of who should be safe for the NCAAs, who needs a little help, and who could potentially play spoiler.  Those can also be found on the tracker page, if you’re so inclined to visit there.

In For Sure

  • Benedict (SIAC) – They play in what is easily the region’s worst conference, so there’s really no telling how good they actually are.  They’ve played zero in-region non-conference games, which is an affront to the selection committee and the rest of the region.  I’d ban over half of the stupid SIAC if it were up to me.  They may lose their accreditation soon, too, so this may be their last South Region go-round for a while.  Still, they’re 20-2 in their conference and pretty much a lock for the #1 seed in the region.  Only a SIAC tourney loss and a Montevallo GSC tourney championship could knock them to #2.
  • Montevallo (GSC East) – UM should be the favorite at the GSC tourney, with their 18-2 in-region record and several solid in-region non-conference wins.  They have beaten several SIAC teams (though they lost to Miles), plus Christian Brothers and Florida Gulf Coast.  The Falcons will prepare for the winner of OBU and West Georgia on Friday.  Even if they lose that game, they’re in line for a seed between #1 and maybe #3.
  • Florida Gulf Coast (Independent) – They don’t play a conference tournament that matters, even if they do play in the national independent tourney.  That won’t matter, since they put together a solid regional schedule each year and typically beat up on the SSC and Puerto Rican teams.  They actually have a couple of GSC wins for good measure, and at 21-3 in the region, they’ll probably grab a seed between #2 and #5.
  • Barry/Rollins (SSC) – Both schools went 13-3 in the SSC and are 22-5 overall.  Barry went 19-4 in-region, while Rollins was 15-3.  Barry is a bit more battle-tested against tough teams, but Rollins has come on pretty strong of late, actually beating Barry 76-47 in their final SSC regular season game.  I think both teams are probably in, with seeds anywhere from #3 to #8, depending on how the SSC tournament breaks down.

Those five teams shouldn’t have to worry, especially if one or more of them manages to win a conference tournament.  Still, even if we have three unexpected tournament champs, these should be the at-large teams.

Needing a little help

A couple more teams could get in if we don’t have any surprises this week at the conference tournaments.  The chances of that are slim, but here are the teams that could potentially back into an NCAA spot without winning their conference tourney:

  • Eckerd (SSC) – Eckerd has come on strong, finishing just behind Barry and Rollins with a 12-4 SSC record.  They’re 17-4 in-region, but West Georgia was their only significant non-conference game within the region (though it was a 90-87 win).  Clearly they’re #3 in the SSC, and they’re already ranked #8, so if the chips fall right, they’re in.
  • Christian Brothers (GSC West) – A nice late run in the conference season proved why the Bucs were such a highly-touted team (at least by me) coming into the conference season.  They didn’t win the West, but they may be the division’s best team in an otherwise down year.  Their 16-5 regional mark looks pretty good now, but they don’t want to test the selection committee by losing to North Alabama on Friday.  A loss to Montevallo in the GSC tourney, though, and CBU would have an interesting case.
  • Henderson State (GSC West) – The Reddies almost choked on their three-game GSC West lead with three to play, but they did win the division.  Sadly for them, though, they sullied up their in-region record in the process, and they’re no longer a lock for the NCAAs.  Like CBU, they will have an interesting case if they lose in the GSC tourney final game to Montevallo.
  • Valdosta State (GSC East) – VSU needed three overtimes on Saturday against West Florida to capture the East’s #2 slot.  They lost to Montevallo earlier in the week, and they’re not playing that well in general.  Obviously I’m rooting for them to go down against the Bisons on Friday, but that may not be the end for them.  They do have the benefit of being ranked #5 in the region at the moment, so that could still carry them in, regardless of their GSC tourney fate.

The Best of the Rest

Here are the teams that probably have the best chance of winning their conference and grabbing an automatic bid from one of the more highly-ranked teams above:

  • Harding (GSC West) – It all starts with HU.  The Bisons were a couple of unlucky breaks from winning the GSC West and not having to worry about any of this.  A decent job at the free throw line on Saturday would have given them the #2 slot over Christian Brothers.  Still, the Bisons are playing well at the right time of year, and they have a moderately favorable draw in the GSC tourney.  They would probably get a rubber game for their season series against Henderson State on Saturday, followed by a probable date with Montevallo in the final game.  They may only need one upset to win the GSC and play spoiler for a team like Eckerd or Valdosta State.
  • Paine (SIAC) – Paine isn’t playing well, and they’re in an easy conference.  That’s both good and bad for them, because it’s entirely possible that they could win an easy SIAC tournament and reach the NCAAs, regardless of how good or bad they are.  Getting past Benedict will be tough, but maybe not impossible.  They’ve been ranked #10 in the region for the past couple of weeks, but I expect that nonsense to stop this time around.
  • Delta State (GSC West) – The Statesmen padded their in-region schedule with some big early wins over GSC East teams, but they fell flat toward the end of the conference season.  Their road ahead is tough, since a Wednesday win over UAH would set them up for a Friday date with well-rested Henderson State, to whom they lost on Saturday.  If they get a win there, I guess anything could happen.
  • Fort Valley State (SIAC) – With a win over Benedict this past week and a #2 seed in the SIAC tournament, FVSU looks like the other SIAC team that could make the NCAAs.  It would really be a shame for two SIAC teams to make it, though, so I’ll be rooting for Benedict all the way.  If FVSU wins, they will cost a deserving team like Christian Brothers or Henderson State a spot in the regional tournament.

Tracking the Conference Tournaments

The GSC has a nice site set up for their tournament, complete with live stats and links to the radio broadcast.  Lynn is the host school for the Sunshine State tournament, and their site can be found here.  The SIAC also has a tournament home page here, and hopefully they will update it.

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